HC Deb 13 November 1978 vol 958 cc71-2W
Mr. Wood

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he has any further statement to make arising out of the report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration entitled "A War Pensions Injustice Remedied".

Mr. Ennals

This report related to a course of action initiated by a small number of officials in 1964 which had led to some ex-regular officers being denied the rank addition which, on legal advice, should have been paid with their war pensions.

In my reply of 19th April 1978 to the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill), I said that I had decided to refer the relevant papers to the Director of Public Prosecutions so that he could consider the issues and whether any further action was appropriate. I have now heard from the Director of Public Prosecutions that, following an investigation by the police, he has decided that no proceedings should be instituted.

I have already made clear to the House my strong condemnation of the decisions criticised by the PCA.

I have taken steps to ensure that—whether or not they have since retired—all those who were personally concerned with the actions under investigation are made aware that some members and ex-members of the staff in performing their official duties fell deplorably short of the standards which are rightly expected of civil servants. I am satisfied that it would not now be right to institute disciplinary proceedings against any of those involved because the lapse of time would make it impossible in such proceedings to decide fairly how responsibility should be attributed. Those concerned have already suffered the anxiety of being subject to prolonged police investigation and none of them can now be in any doubt of the gravity of the matter. The lessons to be learned have been brought forcefully to the attention of officials currently engaged on social security administration, as well as those specifically concerned with war pensions, and should need no further underlining.

In an attempt to identify all cases in which payments of rank adddition have been wrongly denied we have enlisted the aid of the main ex-Service men's organisations. A total of 56 cases has now been identified. In 32 of these no rank addition at all had been awarded; in the remaining 24 the awards had previously been corrected back to October 1964 but payments of rank addition for an earlier period had been withheld. The arrears due, and compensation for the delay, have been, or are being, paid in all cases.